By Cheri Thacker
If enthusiasm translated to scoreboard points the Bartlett Panther’s Nick Thomas could have put up an easy seven in Friday night’s game against the Houston Mustangs, although it wouldn’t have changed the final outcome. Before kickoff, Thomas pumped up his teammates on the sidelines shouting, “Let’s go! We’re gonna shove it down their throat.” The typical smack talk couldn’t help the Panthers young defensive line. The game ended with a score of 41-12 shortly before the skies opened with torrential downpours in Memphis suburbia.
The Panthers offense couldn’t kick start the game. Their first drive placed the Houston Mustangs on Bartlett’s 48 yard line when the offense turned the ball over on downs. The Mustangs capitalized on that opportunity when the defense was unable to stop running back Marquis Marshall from breaking through for a touchdown set up by a 14-yard reception on a previous play. The Panthers were down by seven late in the first, but would give the Mustangs a quick answer.
On their second drive, the Panthers started with a touchback on the 20-yard line. Senior Quarterback Connor Anderson connected with receiver Chuck Seagle for a 13-yard gain. After a false start penalty, Connor threw deep to the right side where Robert Wingo snagged the ball and took it to the end zone for a 60-yard reception. A bad snap and a blocked extra point attempt left the Panthers down by one point when the buzzer sounded the end of the first quarter.
The young Panther defense fought hard on the Mustangs next scoring drive. With a Mustang third and goal from the one-half yard-line, the ball came loose but Houston recovered it for a loss. Now faced with a fourth and three, the Mustangs decided to go for the score. The Panthers defense set ready to pounce but couldn’t stop their prey. The score was 14-6 with 10:33 left in the half.
Forty-one seconds later, the Panthers were on the board again after another Conner-Wingo combination for an 80-yard touchdown reception. Houston defense denied the quarterback sneak for the two-point conversion. The scoreboard flashed the 14-12 score.
The Panthers defense was stunned by a 22-yard pass and 50-yard quarterback rush on the Mustangs next scoring driver. The Mustangs were up by nine points with seven minutes left to go. Hopes of another quick Panthers offensive answer were dashed when the ball was punted away on a fourth and nine. The Bartlett Panthers would head into halftime with a score of 21-12.
A relatively penalty-free first half was replaced by a second-half that saw flags thrown for a variety of infractions to include a personal foul on each side of the ball. The Bartlett Panther’s offense was unable to get on the board the second half. The unseasoned defense couldn’t put a stop on Houston’s three scoring drives. The final score of the game was 41-12.
Head Coach Brian Brewer, when asked to talk a bit about the game, reiterated that his defense was very young with last year’s defense almost entirely comprised of seniors. “They’ve got to learn their assignments just like anything else. They’re learning and sometimes this is what you get when they’re learning.”
When asked about adjustments needed for the offense, Coach Brewer said he would need to review the game tape but felt that most of the issues were minor adjustments rather. “I don’t know that we did things poorly on offense but everything’s gotta work for it to all work together. We’re still making little mistakes that seem to kill us.”
The Panthers will host the Arlington Tigers 7 pm Friday night.